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Seals are among the few animals able to survive on the frozen coastlines and continuously expanding and contracting sea ice of the Arctic.

A seal is a carnivorous marine mammal with numerous adaptations for a semi-aquatic lifestyle.

Seals, together with sea lions and walruses, are members of a group of animals known as Pinnipedia. Members of this group are known as pinnipeds.

There are 36 living pinniped species, divided between 3 families (Data: Catalogue of Life)

Odobenidae (1 species) The only species in this family is the walrus.

Otariidae (16 species) Members of this family are also known as the ‘eared seals’ on behalf of their visible external ears. This family contains sea lions and fur seals.

Phocidae (19 species). The ‘true seal’ family. Members of this family are also known as ‘earless seals’ because their ears are not visible externally.

Only 7 pinnipeds (6 true seals and the walrus) are found in the Arctic.

Unlike whales, dolphins and porpoises, pinnipeds are not fully aquatic. They still rely on land (or, in the case of several Arctic seals, ice) in order to give birth and raise their pups.

Although seals spend most of their lives in the water, they regularly come onto land; a process known as ‘hauling out’.There are six species of seal found in the Arctic. They are: the bearded seal, harp seal, hooded seal, ribbon seal, ringed seal and spotted seal.

The walrus is the only other pinniped found in the Arctic.

The eared seals found furthest north are the northern fur seal and the Steller sea lion. Although both are present in sub-Arctic regions, neither is a true Arctic seal.

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